Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Christianity v My social life

As I live my life and I see other people living their's I can't help but think that most people see any decision about whether they should become a Christian as a decision about what is worth more to them, Christianity or their social life. This is true whether you are a Christian or not.
If you are not a Christian then you may decide that Christianity is not for you because it would ruin your social life.
Alternatively if you are a Christian you might to decide not to obey Jesus' teaching because your social life is worth more to you than Jesus.

At the heart of many people's social life in our society is a substance called alcohol. A brief tour of people's status's on facebook will demonstrate the accuracy of this statement. Therefore many people's objection to Christianity when all is said and done is as simple as this - 'The Bible says don't get drunk. I like getting drunk. Therefore I'm not going to become a Christian' For many people life without the heavy nights out/in is so unimaginable that they will not even consider giving it up to give Christianity a go.

In an attempt to fight against this I want to give you 4 reasons why I think the Bible is against getting drunk and just see if it makes any sense.
1. Getting drunk can lead to doing things you regret - Anyone who has been drunk knows that this is true. The Bible says that God gives you life and holds you responsible for what you do with it. Being drunk is therefore condemned because it robs you of self control and leads you to doing things you would not ordinarily do.
2. Getting drunk can lead to hurting other people - Just look at the figures of crimes associated with alcohol abuse and tell me that I'm wrong. Alternatively look at your past and see how many people you said unkind things to, said unkind things about, fallen out with or hurt someone in some way because you were drunk. God says we should love other people like we love ourselves and being drunk does not help us do this!
3. Getting drunk is an abuse of your body - I don't mean this in any super pious way I simply mean that generally throwing up is your body's way of telling you that it would rather you didn't put so much alcohol into it.
4. Getting drunk is too often a form of escapism - My worry about getting drunk is that as I talk to people they use it as a way to escape from life. They spend Monday and Tuesday looking back at their drunken weekend and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday looking forward to their next drunken weekend. So many people seem to find life hard and unsatisfying and use alcohol abuse as a way to escape. The problem with this is that God gave us life for the living. Surely it would be better to find a way to find joy and meaning in the whole of life rather than simply finding ways to escape it for a while!

Now I am aware that as soon as I blog on something like getting drunk many people who previously have had no problems with my blog will feel that I have gone too far. After all it's fine to say anything but just don't tell me not to get drunk. Others of you who have had the pleasure of seeing me drunk will think 'what a hypocrite' but of course Christianity is not about whether you get drunk or not. Christianity is about confessing to God that I have done things I shouldn't have; I have hurt other people, I have abused the body God gave me and I have used alcohol to escape from the life he gave me to live, and then finding forgiveness in Jesus dying on the cross to take all the punishment I deserve for that.

Christianity is not about whether you get drunk or not but I worry that too many people trade in their chance to get to know the God who created everything and who loves them more than they can imagine for a night out on the town. I'm a miserable drunk but however good that night out is for you I am pretty confident that trading forever on a perfect world with God for it is a bad trade!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Using our gifts

Often we act as if pleasure is to be found in those times we don't have to do 'work'. However, it strikes me that actually there are few things more enjoyable than finding something you can do well and then doing it. So for example most people who enjoy pub quizzes are coincidentally those people who are good at it, most people enjoy the sports they are good at more than those they are not, most people who are really into playing music and getting better at it are those with some natural aptitude, basically we enjoy doing things we are good at.

The Bible says that this is the way we were created. God created us with different gifts (to be good at different things) and he created us to enjoy using those gifts. Even if we were perfect there would still be stuff for us to do and so our satisfaction and pleasure is not to be found in doing nothing but rather in doing the work God has prepared us to do.

I have become aware that all too often I try to avoid doing the work God has given me to do believing that doing nothing will bring me more pleasure it doesn't. However, all too often the work we do doesn't bring pleasure either. Now all work will at times be difficult and unenjoyable but often I wonder if this is the case more often than strictly necessary because we haven't taken the time to think about what gifts God has given us to use.

At our church we are going to run a course to help us all identify what gifts God has given us and how we can use them. The temptation is to think that this course is one to be avoided because identifying gifts sounds scary and because at the end of it we'll only end up doing more stuff and therefore having a worse life. I need to remind myself that the use of these gifts will not lead to a worse life because God made us with gifts and that using these gifts is the very thing God created us for. I hope I find that I've got some good gifts and that I can find myself ways to use them for God's glory, other people's benefit and my enjoyment!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Good days and bad

I have read a lot recently about how we understand, need and appreciate the gospel in our lives depending on whether we feel we have had good days or bad days. The basic argument goes something like this.

When you have had a bad day - So when you have ignored God, lived for yourself, done things wrong, failed people maybe even hurt people then it is easy to think that we are far away from God and that he must be rejecting us. However, this is not true because Christianity is not about us being good enough for God but rather about Jesus dying on the cross so that we can be forgiven for all that bad stuff. So the bad day actually has no bearing on our status before God because our status before God is all about Jesus not about the levels we attain.

On the flip side when we have had a good day - So when we feel we have managed to stay focused on God, when we have lived for him and for other people, when we have served people and helped them it's easy to think that we are closer to God and that he must accept us now. However, again this is way off because we are never good enough to hit the perfect standard of a perfect God and so our status before God is again all about what Jesus has done rather than how good we have been.

Now it is worth me saying that I consider this to be absolutely true and essential to anyone's understanding of what it means to be a Christian and on how we can come into a real relationship with God. However, I just want to look at it another way.

Whilst good days and bad days are not the determining factor when it comes to my relationship with God they do matter. You see what arguments like this are doing is looking at all from God's point of view and how he relates to us. However, if we for a minute look at it from our point of view I think we can make a distinction. Let me explain.

Good days - If by a good day we mean living the way that God intended then the way you feel about life and your day will and should be different if you have had a good day to if you have had a bad day. So for example on Thursday when I managed to study God's word deeply, to talk to God honestly, to serve God at youth work and to relate to people according to the grace God has shown me I felt better about the day, I worshipped God better and I enjoyed my life and the things God has given me more.

Bad days - If by a bad day we mean living in way contrary to that God intended then the way you feel about life and your day should surely be different from that enjoyed in a good day. So for example on Wednesday I didn't manage to relate to people well, I didn't talk with God honestly, I didn't study God's word deeply and I didn't serve God well and the way I felt about that day was worse because of that. I did not enjoy the day as much, I didn't have the same satisfaction out of it, I worshipped God worse and I felt worse about that day.

So whilst good and bad days might have no bearing on our status before God they do have an impact on our ability to enjoy and find satisfaction in the lives God has given us. If God really exists, if he really made this world and if the Bible is his revelation to people then living his way must lead to a better life than living opposed to it. My experience tells me that there is a difference between good days and bad days even if God, in his incredible grace, decides to see no distinction and love me regardless!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Avatar

Well hello again everyone. I guess it is about time life went back to some semblance of normality after Christmas even though we're still suffering from some slightly fresh weather.
This afternoon I went to see Avatar and so I thought I'd share two thoughts I had!
1. Isn't it amazing how the blue creatures never do anything wrong. You never see anyone act selfishly or destructively they really are just good. This makes you as the audience instantly root for them and it seems to make them enjoy a much better level of existence to the humans. It's interesting that we can recognise that living a certain way leads to a better life in films but we fail to believe it when it comes to living our own lives!

2. How come whenever anyone believes in God or anything beyond the simply materialistic they have to be portrayed as in some ways primitive. So the blue things believe in a spiritual realm but they also fight with spears, wear little or no clothes, don't seem into technology and do some fairly weird chanting and shaking sort of stuff. I have to say that this sort of portrayal does somewhat do my head in

As I was watching Avatar and soaking up the special effects I couldn't help but wish that humanity was just slightly better than we are! Fortunately the Bible says that we can be and that one day humanity and the world will be!